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Why Confronting My Worst Anxiety Means Sitting in Silence

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I am doing it. I am forcing myself to sit in silence. I am tackling this issue of mine with as much force as a linebacker. I am strong. I am capable. I can do this.

Anxiety is one hell of a monster to carry around on your shoulders, much like a toddler getting a piggyback ride while you walk around an amusement park; the heaviness sits on your shoulders and even the mere mention of taking the weight off is met with push back. When all is said and done, you survived the day, but the effort of spending that much time carrying something around has left you drained both physically and mentally.

The amount of people in the world who live with anxiety, depression or both is staggering. Some people have experienced bouts of anxiety but found a way to overcome it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people gripped with anxiety who struggle every second of every day with no reprieve in sight.

I’m a major advocate for the mental health community and one thing I have learned throughout the years is that anxiety is like a snowflake. There might be a lot of it surrounding you, but no two are alike. What makes me anxious might not even be a blip in someone else’s radar. The coping mechanisms I use might help me, but those tools aren’t one-size-fits-all. Everyone has to find what works best for them.

The absolute worst thing for my anxiety is silence. Conversely, there are people who crave solitude and become anxious in noisy environments. The reason why silence bothers me is that it forces me to confront my thoughts, which can range anywhere from what to make for dinner to how horrifically wrong a situation could have gone. “Could have gone” is the operative phrase. I’ll think of a situation that happened and imagine every possible outcome, both good and bad. These memories can be a conversation I had the day before or a meeting I attended a decade ago, where I said something silly and it embarrassed me. My brain does not discriminate; it can pick the simplest memory and make it complicated.

So, as I sit here in silence — in my own version of immersion therapy — I’m taking a hard look at myself. This is definitely not easy. I keep reminding myself that everything in life requires small but necessary steps in order to proceed. You can have a house, but you need to lay down a foundation first. You can run a mile, but first, you need to walk.

I’m taking my steps now and laying down a foundation. I’m cautiously optimistic that by taking on the silence bit by bit, it will eventually make it seem less like a prison sentence and more like a small break from the chaos that is life.

Hopefully whatever goal you’re working toward becomes closer and closer each day. You might stumble along the way or get pushed back some, but keep going.

Photo by Ömürden Cengiz on Unsplash

Originally published: May 23, 2019
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